This year's IIAC Top Under 40 Award winner was inspired by her grandmother to protect older clients from bad advice

By Tessie Sanci | Mid-November 2016

Lori Pinkowski was 14, working for her brother, a financial advisor, during summer vacation, when she began to realize that the financial advisory business was right for her.

"I could hear him speaking with clients, and [their conversations] intrigued me," she says. Watching her brother cultivate his client relationships dovetailed with Pinkowski's burgeoning interest in the stock market, contributing to her decision to pursue a career as an advisor.

Pinkowski, encouraged by that experience, became licensed to sell securities and began her own practice by age 21. By the time she was 25, she was training rookie advisors in her independent wealth-management practice in Vancouver.

Later, Pinkowski went into partnership with a fellow advisor, Seth Allen, forming Vancouver-based Pinkowski-Allen Financial Group, for which she is a senior portfolio manager and senior vice president, and co-manages $500 million in assets under management. Pinkowski-Allen Financial now operates under Toronto-based Raymond James Ltd.'s umbrella.

Pinkowski, age 37, is this year's recipient of the Investment Industry Association of Canada's (IIAC) Top Under 40 Award. The award, which is co-sponsored by Toronto-based Smarten Up Institute and Investment Executive, is designed to celebrate successful young advisors who have made significant contributions to the financial services sector and their local community.

"An award for [achieving] success under the age of 40, in my opinion, shows people that age is only a number," Pinkowski says. "If you're persistent, transparent, motivated and hard-working, then anyone can achieve this."

Pinkowski always has been committed to demonstrating transparency and integrity. While Pinkowski's brother showed her what good client communication sounds like, her purpose as an advisor also is defined by a desire to protect seniors, such as her German grandmother, from downward markets and flawed investment plans.

"I'm very close to my oma," Pinkowski says. "She was instrumental in my upbringing, along with my parents. The way I looked at it, I was protecting little omas and opas [grandfathers] from bad financial advisors."

Pinkowski built her business through cold-calling, knocking on doors and attending local events at which she could increase her visibility in her community."I built my business brick by brick," she says.

She also made a name as a speaker in local high schools, at which she educated students on topics such as saving and the proper use of credit. A local newspaper heard of Pinkowski's financial literacy efforts and published a feature story on her.

That media exposure led to an opportunity to write a column called Making Cents for that newspaper, which she continues to do today in addition to appearing frequently on television and radio to discuss market conditions and explain investment concepts.

Pinkowski's main client base has always consisted of older individuals, ranging from age 60 to people in their 90s. Pinkowski worked hard at the beginning of her career to prove her youth would not be an obstacle in advising older clients successfully.

Pinkowski's experience in leading a team at an early age proved valuable. Within the first five years of her career, Pinkowski was a mentor in an international program in which she worked with students from countries such as Germany, Austria and China.

That program was a mutually beneficial experience, Pinkowski says, as the students learned about Canada's financial services sector while Pinkowski learned about the students' cultures.

Today, Pinkowski is co-leader of a bustling practice that employs 12 professionals aside from Allen and herself, and serves approximately 150 client families, corporations and non-profit organizations. An average day for Pinkowski can include portfolio reviews with clients, meetings with prospects, taking conference calls with third-party portfolio managers and working on the practice's marketing strategy.

Pinkowski continues to work with pre-retirees and retirees. She and Allen take a conservative investment approach, designed to manage risk effectively. The partners manage 70% of the securities in their clients' portfolios directly, while third-party portfolio managers handle the remaining 30%.

"[My clients] don't have a chance to make up their nest egg," Pinkowski says, "so we never want them to have a big 'down' year because it can affect them and their retirement. We want [clients] to go out and live a happy retirement while we are making the day-to-day decisions on their portfolio and keeping them up to date on their performance."

Although Pinkowski's clients are older, she hasn't abandoned young people. She frequently speaks to groups of post-secondary students who are exploring their career options. Pinkowski extols the benefits of a career as a financial advisor, particularly to young women, whom, she says, are underrepresented in this business.

Pinkowski is active in her community. Her practice supports several charities, including the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, B.C. Children's Hospital and the local crisis services society.

Pinkowski and her team have become heavily involved with the Prostate Cancer Foundation B.C. in its fundraising and educational efforts. (Pinkowski's father is a survivor of the disease.)

Pinkowski assists with the foundation's marketing strategy, while Allen sits on the charity's board of directors and the team takes part in the annual Father's Day Run. Pinkowski-Allen Financial's commitment to the cause has inspired Raymond James to become a primary sponsor of the annual event.

Pinkowski was recognized professionally before being named to IIAC Top Under 40 Award. A business publication in Vancouver included her on its list of the city's top 40 professionals under age 40 earlier this year. She also has been recognized on two separate occasions by her firm's parent company, St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Raymond James Financial Inc., as a top advisor.

These awards acknowledge Pinkowski's and her team's commitment to ensuring that their clients receive a high level of service and top-tier investment advice.

Says Pinkowski: "All of the accolades that I have received just show that being a financial advisor and doing things the right way does pay off."

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